Prof. Dr Salih Emri is a Turkish Professor of Medicine who has contributed extensively to the fields of Internal Medicine and Pulmonology for over 30 years. Prof. Emri recently contracted COVID-19 whilst providing care to patients carrying the virus into his clinic, before the nation was put on alert in Turkey back in March 2020. We were keen to talk to Prof. Emri at his clinic in an international private hospital in Istanbul to ask about his experience of being both a COVID-19 doctor on the frontlines and his ordeal as a patient of the disease.
COVID-19 has both a physical and mental impact
This history of pulmonary medicine in Turkey has changed significantly over the past 30 years from when Prof. Emri first started his career but it has changed even more rapidly in the past year with the arrival and battle against COVID-19. ‘Patients and healthcare personnel dealing with COVID-19 on a daily basis struggle with the extensive measures, the need for testing and re-testing for the virus, wearing personal protective equipment for extended periods of time and the general fear of contracting the virus during clinic visits’, says Prof. Emri. These are just some factors that have increased the levels of stress and mental fatigue in healthcare personnel who continue to manage cases for this disease, amongst the other medical cases they are trying to treat. Prof Emri gives an example, ‘We are unable to biopsy potential cancer patients until they are confirmed COVID-19 negative, delaying urgent and sometimes critical care for them. There is also the financial burden of having to pay for a COVID-19 test at almost each appointment as this is the only way to screen for COVID-19 positive individuals visiting the clinic everyday’.
Doctor becomes patient
Prof. Emri tested positive for COVID-19 himself back in March this year whilst working in his current position at the hospital. Early on, in February, we were getting tomography scans of patients’ lungs back where we could not really make sense of. By the time we were able to identify that it was COVID-19-related, many people including myself and colleagues had already been exposed to the virus and had in fact contracted it’, explains Prof. Emri. When we asked him about his ordeal and how the disease affected him personally and professionally he said, ‘It had a huge impact on my health and I thought to myself this could be it. I had to quarantine myself from my wife and children in a separate house. In fact, I am still trying to live separately as I am still exposed to potential cases everyday and want to protect my family. Professionally, it has put a strain on our wards, personnel and general sense of peace when coming to work’. In our discussions with Prof. Emri it was evident that this pandemic introduced a multi-faceted problem for everyone whether they are directly or indirectly exposed to the frontlines or not.
A vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel
The substantial number of chronic respiratory patients who need ongoing respiratory care now need to reconsider leaving home, using public transport to commute to and from clinics or visiting hospitals where incoming COVID-19 cases are high. Prof. Emri mentions that they perform a COVID-19 test for each patient visit, regardless of how often they see the same patient and that this is not going to be a sustainable way moving forward into the future. ‘I can’t see any other solution at this point than an effective vaccine that can help us get on top of this pandemic. Unfortunately, until then, I don’t know how we will be able to improve our quality of care or the patient’s quality of life, particularly if they are symptomatic to the virus’, says Prof. Emri.
Telehealth is booming
As a pioneer doctor who has already embraced other IoT medical technologies in his own practice, Prof. Emri recognizes the value of medical devices with remote monitoring capabilities. He states, ‘The future is definitely in telehealth and this pandemic has been a real eye-opener for the medical world. There are tremendous benefits for all parties when patients can be kept in the comfort of their own homes whilst we monitor their health continuously from our clinics. It saves time and money but most importantly, as we have seen during this global pandemic, it provides peace to know that we are preventing any unnecessary bi-drectional exposure to infectious diseases’. Prof. Emri is also a Spirohome user and uses the product to monitor his own patients. We asked him what he liked about SpiroHome the most to which he replied, ‘We can currently perform pulmonary function tests only on patients who are confirmed COVID-19-negative which is why your product is extremely important in this atmosphere as it allows us to have patients perform these tests at home by-passing this limitation. The data we get from SpiroHome devices is invaluable to helping us track symptoms and disease progression and helps us decide when intervention becomes necessary’.
We would like to thank Prof. Emri for his time and review of our product.